PETROL prices are rising in York after speculation about war in Iraq pushed up the cost of fuel on world markets.

The Petrol Retailers Association warned today that further increases were on the way at filling stations across the country in the next few days.

It said motorists in rural areas could shortly be paying more than at any time since the fuel protests of September, 2000, with a litre of unleaded petrol or diesel costing more than 80p.

Sainsbury's petrol station at Monks Cross, York, was today charging 74.9p a litre of unleaded, compared with 72.9p about a fortnight ago.

Tesco at Askham Bar was charging 73.9p a litre, compared with 72.4p about a fortnight ago.

Petrol retailers' national spokesman Ray Holloway said: "Sharp rises in the cost price of both petrol and diesel, something that neither petrol retailers nor oil companies have any control over, will lead to increases of about one penny a litre. This will be more in some cases."

He said a number of factors had helped to push prices up. "The cause of the rise is rooted in the fact that continued speculation about war rather than an actual oil shortage has forced cost prices upwards on world markets.

"In addition, the USA continues to experience crude oil shortages because one of their main suppliers, Venezuela, is still recovering from industrial action.

"Military action aside, upwards price pressure may abate or even reverse as we head towards March."

According to the AA's monthly price report, unleaded at garages rose last month by 1.4p a litre and at supermarkets by 2.2p a litre. Unleaded in the USA works out at about 24.77p a litre compared with our 76.3p a litre.

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury said: "We are under continued pressure to review petrol prices. We have increased prices this week in line with the UK petrol market by a maximum of 1p a litre."

Updated: 16:13 Thursday, February 13, 2003